It’s easy to look at the moves the Yankees have made this winter and claim it’s the Evil Empire striking one again. Or that the arrogant, win-at-all-costs mentality of the late George Steinbrenner has finally resurfaced in his sons Hal and Hank.
Sure, spending in excess of $500 million to bring in a sleuth of All-Stars and a Japanese ace is impressive, but no big signings like that are ever that black-and-white. This time, the Yankees didn’t just happily choose to splurge and buy themselves a 28th World Series championship.
In fact, I’m going to go as far as saying that the moves they made appear to be part of a desperate effort to save the franchise and cover up the grocery list of issues that lie within it.
With all the additions to the 2014 roster, it’s reasonable for a fan to want to move on and delete every memory of last season, save for Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera’s beautiful farewells…and perhaps Alfonso Soriano’s torrid streak in August. But aside from those things, Luis Cruz, David Adams, Chris Nelson, Reid Brignac and the rest of the small village to play the infield for the 2013 Yankees may not even ring a bell to the fan already scrambling for 2014 World Series tickets on StubHub.
They do to me, however.
Last season was a great example of why the Yankees are destined for failure sometime in the near future. Don’t get me wrong, 2014 is shaping up to a be a fun year in the Bronx, but after that, there is a grey area.
The Yankees will almost surely lose Derek Jeter to retirement either this season or next, and there is no one ready to replace him at shortstop or the other vacated infield spots of second base and third base. Yes, I know Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson have signed on for this season, but they are not long-term solutions.
The same can be said for most of their outfield. Alfonso Soriano and Brett Gardner are free agents after this year, and Beltran’s balky knees are sure to limit him to the DH role for most of his three-year deal. That leaves Jacoby Ellsbury as the only outfielder who is sure to be here and (hopefully) produce far into the future.
Also worth noting is that Brian McCann is on the wrong side of 30 for a catcher, and people are already counting down the days until Mark Teixeira’s contract expires so McCann can move from behind the plate to first base.
For people who point to the promising farm system…don’t. Top prospects like Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Gary Sanchez, Eric Jagielo, and Greg Bird are still plenty of years away from even cracking the big league roster, let alone solidifying themselves as bonafide everyday players. And with the way the Yankees have utterly failed with guys like Austin Jackson, Jesus Montero, and Eric Duncan, I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for those guys to put on the pinstripes.
Wait, I haven’t even gotten to the pitching staff yet? Wow. The Yankees really are in some deep you-know-what.
The rotation looks good this year. But again, for this year. If CC is able to bounce back, if Tanaka is able to adapt well to the Major Leagues, if Pineda finally makes an impact, and if Nova can solidify himself as a reliable starter, then you have a great foundation for the future. But what is the likelihood of all those things happening? Not so great, would be my answer.
The bullpen is one area of the team, be it in 2014 or beyond, that has not been improved in any fashion by Brian Cashman. No one is saying losing the greatest relief pitcher of all-time is easy, but aside from new closer David Robertson, Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne are the only reliable late-inning arms. People who point to Matt Thornton forget he was left off of the Red Sox’ postseason roster, so that should speak volumes about the lefty.
And again looking towards the farm, the Yankees’ top young arms are still a ways away from making it to the show. Ian Clarkin, Ty Hensley, Rafael DePaula, and Jose Campos need a lot more seasoning in the minors, while Manny Banuelos is M.I.A. after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012.
To conclude, the Yankees have indeed built a solid team for the upcoming season. There’s a good chance that if all goes well they will find themselves back in October. But after 2014, there are far too many questions and far too few answers to make me believe that the moves the Yankees have made have any good effect on their future over the next 3-5 years. We may indeed see a 28th championship, but like from 2009-2013, that’ll be all they can gloat about after spending all that money. One championship, tons of prospect failures and poor decisions, and overall, a heap of disappointment.